Over the years in my writing for Great Scots Magazine, I’ve spoken in multiple ways of Scotties as deep-souled characters. To me, one of the great pieces of the gift of a good dog is the treasure of uniqueness in each of those deep-souled characters! When those who don’t know our breed claim to know our dogs by a cookie-cutter shape they miss everything worth knowing about our individual Scotties.
James Hillman, a favorite Jungian psychologist, says every child growing up should have the privilege of knowing “odd fellows and peculiar ladies.” In contrast to our modern cultural tribalism in which we carefully surround ourselves with only those who think, speak, and act like us, Hillman recognized how vital it is to the well-rounded human psyche to know and respect those who don’t fit our mold.
I’ve found my strong-willed Scotties, full of themselves and so resolutely marchers-to-their-own-drums, are graduate seminars in “odd fellows and peculiar ladies.”
They are that in my life by virtue of their singularity. The dictionary says of singularity that it denotes a single instance considered by itself, distinguished by superiority, being out of the ordinary, exceptional, unusual. Scotties are ‘singular’ wee souls who are no other breed and not to be stereotyped as any other Scottie! To know their individual ways is to know singularity on four-inch legs.
How can I estimate how much such education is worth in an age of generics and the rapid disappearance of all that is local and unique? Globalization has flattened our world Tom Friedman tells us and I knew he was right when I saw KFC fried chicken in China, McDonalds in Shanghi, and Starbucks inside the “Forbidden City”!
A dozen years ago I wrote in GSM, in the issue I devoted to re-discovering old Rt. 66 with my Scotties marking the Mother Road’s Diamond Jubilee (Vol. 6, No. 3, May/June 2001), that our lives, like our ‘supercenters’ and our super highways, have been straightened and flattened into a dulling sameness. The neurosis of our busyness leaves us feeling out of touch and out of control. In our hearts we long for time, for surprise, for the unique. We yearn for something deeper than life as commodity. Today, having moved out of Albuquerque in search of the quiet life, in search of mom and pop stores and cultural “odd fellows and peculiar ladies,” I find myself on the board of the Historic Tomé-Adelino Neighborhood Association with our backs against the wall fighting tooth and nail against big-money California shakers and movers who have plans to “develop” our portion of the Rio Grande Valley. They come with vision but not with sight. They come with visions of other places but not the insight to see the uniqueness of our place. They want us to be Everytown, USA.
I find sanctuary in quiet moments with my Scotties who refresh my spirit. They remind me it is not sameness but singularity my soul craves; it is the non-repeatable moment, the irreplaceable character, friend, place. In a cold and calculating world they help me rediscover a soft place at my center that the generic doesn’t reach. They are my “odd fellows and peculiar ladies” reminding me how important the out-of-the-ordinary is to my life.
Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine (Excerpt from the chapter, The Gift of a Good Dog, in MacDuffy’s Reader, Joseph Harvill, 2007)